The brave new world of automotive

April 23, 2019
Andy Francis

You could argue that it’s been 17 years in the making but today, we launch our new Technology division. I say that as it’s actually an obvious step given technology fits snugly between our founding pillars of automotive and sports, just like motorsport has always done.

When it comes to getting from A to B, it’s not just about the ‘motor vehicle’ anymore. 

A glance back in time 

My first car was a 1976 Mini. It had a Pioneer car stereo bought from Halfords fixed to the parcel shelf with a graphic equalizer. It was ace. 

Then, for the life of me, I ‘upgraded’ to an Austin Maestro Vanden Plas. Why? Because it had a ‘talking dashboard’  – a poor man’s version of Knight Rider’s KITT

Yet despite the giddy-level of technology, and the voice of a Kiwi female actress constantly at my side, I had to use a hammer to unstick the starter-motor every morning.

A brave new world 

Fast forward to today and the car is nothing short of a walking, talking super-computer with more wires and code than the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981. 

Today, every car brand is a technology company. 

The conversations are around how we connect to our cars, how our cars will talk to each other, to the infrastructure around them, and do so autonomously. 

We’re in a race towards electrification which will morph from lithium to solid state battery in the not-too-distant future. We’re already in the throws of mass adoption of ride-hailing mobility, as a taster for tomorrow’s shared ownership model; a time when the only thing you own is a personalised steering wheel. 

Much of this is being driven by the changing relationship between the car and our environment – physical and environmental.  

I had the pleasure of working with the legendary David Nelson from Foster & Partners a few years ago. I listened in awe as he spelt out a future where the concentration of bodies in urban areas will accelerate adoption of ‘last mile’ mobility and that the car as we know it will eventually be all about ‘inter-city’ travel and energy transfer. 

That’s one of the reasons we’re seeing OEMs roll-out their versions of e-scooters and e-bikes to challenge the native players like GoCycle and the likes of Citroen launch Ami-One and SEAT its Minimo at Geneva Motor Show last March.

When you look at the new ULEV policy, it’s obvious that transport companies will also need to briskly adopt range-extender electric trucks like those from Tevva Motors so that they can continue with frictionless driving from plant-to-shop.   

And it’s not just about the car alone. The likes of Best Mile provide the invisible ‘cloud-based’ infrastructure that is needed to knit together autonomous vehicles, pods, buses to each other, to the traffic lights and to the human-driven, ride-hailing, shared mobility vehicles that will still be omnipresent. 

The days of a hammer in the glovebox are well behind us. Technology – and not just in the car – is shaping our personal and social mobility. 

Keeping pace with change 

As communicators, it is hard not to get incredibly excited by all of this. After all, it means we need to come up with new strategies and ways of thinking. 

Success always comes from simplifying the complex, appealing to the rational as well as engaging the emotional, and showcasing breakthrough innovation rather than incremental gains. Above all, it means explaining
‘what does it mean for me?’

That’s why I’m as excited about the launch of our new Technology division as I was about my first 1976 Mini. Both important milestones, marking the start of a new chapter and one exhilarating journey ahead.  

Andy Francis 

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